The first half version of the 2014 Clearwater Threshers was one of the worst teams assembled in affiliated baseball. They improved in the second half playing host to J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn, and Aaron Nola. The 2015 squad was a much better team from day 1. The starting pitching had big promise early, but stumbled at times due to injuries, promotions, and ineffectiveness. The bats in the roster were solid all around the diamond, peaking with star power when J.P. Crawford arrived for the month of May. The Threshers staged a dramatic comeback to win the first half title on the last day. With some reinforcements from Lakewood they were able to dominate the second half and emerge with the best record in the league. The team won’t be looked back on as the cornerstone of the Phillies’ rebuild (Reading has that title locked up), but there are a lot of players for the 2015 Threshers that should put on a Phillies uniform at some point in their lives.
Standing: Won 1st and 2nd half titles in the North Division, Lost in first round of playoffs to the Daytona Tortugas
Hits – Andrew Pullin (127)
Doubles – Dylan Cozens (22)
Triples – Angelo Mora (6)
Home Runs – Andrew Pullin (14)
Walks – Mitch Walding (48)
Strikeouts – Mitch Walding (117)
Stolen Bases – Dylan Cozens (18)
Batting Average – Rhys Hoskins (.317)
On Base Percentage – Rhys Hoskins (.394)
Slugging – Rhys Hoskins (.510)
ERA (SP) – Mark Leiter Jr. (2.26)
ERA (RP) – Edubray Ramos (1.46)
Innings – David Whitehead (135.2)
Home Runs – David Whitehead (10)
Walks – David Whitehead (51) *Alberto Tirado walked 53 in split time between Clearwater and Dunedin
Strikeouts – David Whitehead (94)
WHIP (SP) – Brandon Leibrandt (1.03)
WHIP (RP) – Edubray Ramos (0.75)
What a Relief:
I asked Kirsten and Betsy about this as well, but I wanted to double dip into the relievers that passed through Clearwater this year (and some other pitchers who may be joining them in the pen soon). For the most part we look past minor league relievers because individually they are risky and hard to bet on for future success. That means the best way to secure some future arms is to give yourself a portfolio of upside. Let’s talk about these arms, and I will start by dividing them into two groups, the pure relievers and then those that could see a rotation again, but are most likely relievers in the end.
Relief All The Way:
The top guy here is the one I have been talking about for a year now, Edubray Ramos jumped over Lakewood to Clearwater where he dominated (49.1 IP 1.46 ERA 6 BB 47 K) before going to Reading. Ramos has a big fastball (94-97) and a wipeout breaking ball, and while the command regressed in Reading he is a guy that could be at the back of a bullpen. After Ramos it gets a bit more murky, but Miguel Nunez made big strides this year after moving to the bullpen full time, his stuff and command has ticked up (sitting 91-94 now) and the results have improved dramatically. In his 55.1 innings of relief in 2015 Nunez put up a 2.11 ERA with 34 hits, 17 walks, and 40 strikeouts. There might be a bit more in Nunez’s arm, but more likely he is a good middle reliever if he can keep it together. Ulises Joaquin is a guy who might have gotten more attention a few years ago, but the small RHP brings a mid 90s fastball and a solid breaking ball. He could easily follow a path similar to Colton Murray or Hector Neris and reach the majors eventually. Another guy like that is Jesen Dygestile-Therrien who saw his stuff stagnate a bit while he worked on developing a good changeup. But Therrien can get it up to 95+ at times (though he is more 91-93) and he posted a sterling 1.77 ERA for the Threshers this year.
The biggest arm who might get a chance to start in the future (and the rumor is that chance will come this spring) is Alberto Tirado. The small RHP has a plus plus fastball and slider that might be plus plus as well, and when he was a starter before he showed a plus changeup. The problem is he has been unable to find the strike zone in either role, but it has hurt him much less as a reliever. There is huge upside in either role for Tirado, but we will need to wait and see if the Phillies can clean up the control some. The next big arm is breakout reliever who might get a chance to start in the future in Alexis Rivero who saw his fastball tick up to 94-97 with a good slider. His changeup is still a work in progress and it isn’t really set whether the Phillies will give him a chance to start, but he has shown a lot of upside quickly. In Yacksel Rios the Phillies have a loose armed raw pitcher who is already Rule 5 eligible. Rios can sit 94-96 in short bursts, but his secondary pitches (he throws a slider, curveball, and changeup) are poor, as are his actions (stiff), but he has some arm strength and has transitioned seamlessly from starting to relieving (though his numbers are much better in relief). His best spot is in the bullpen where it will be easier to try and find him one secondary pitch to focus on. Mark Leiter Jr. has been a bit of an enigma, his stuff got a little bit better in 2015, but his stint AA really exposed the lack of dominance in his arsenal. I personally think there is a future for him in relief because he does through a little bit harder while being able to change angles on hitters. The Phillies have only used Victor Arano in the bullpen in special circumstances because his upside as a starter is still very good (on good days he will show you a plus fastball and two above average secondary pitches). Arano has been dominant in relief in winter ball and is reportedly most comfortable there. However, he doesn’t turn 21 until February so the Phillies won’t be putting him in the pen just yet.